And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (Jn 3:19-21)
This Gospel reading comes paired with a reading from Acts; a reading that highlights a darkness within the Sadducees that kept them from seeing the light. The Sadducees, “filled with jealousy” (Acts 5:17), laid hands on Peter and his disciples and put them in prison. Jesus spoke to these people during his public ministry and said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” (Mt. 23:27)
When wickedness and darkness reside in the heart, it hardens the heart and turns it away from the light of Christ. The dark heart would rather sit in its own pride and misery than soften and turn towards the healing power of truth. Many times we do this in our own relationships - a fight with a spouse, a grudge against a co-worker or a boss, being jealous of a friend, etc. The right thing is to allow God to come into these relationships to bring peace, healing, and joy, but it means doing the hard thing of recognizing and admitting we’re wrong. This is what the Sadducees could not do and that is the lesson for us.
The greatest litmus test in our relationships is this: If you’re going to “lay hands” on someone, is it to put them in prison or to heal them in the name of Jesus.
Photo from Brooklynn Museum: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees